Talks are underway in Malawi over the Lake Malawi border disagreement. MaraPost’s Derek Mapondera filed this report from Mzuzu
Malawi and Tanzania on Monday opened five days of diplomatic talks on the long-dormant Lake Malawi border dispute, with Malawian Foreign Affairs minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume saying he hoped the talks would "clear the misundertanding on the border once and for all."
"The people of Tanzania and Malawi have every confidence that the meeting will clear the misunderstanding on the border once and for all.We cannot keep on talking about the same issue for every 40 years ," Chiume said when he opened the meeting of technocrats in this northern city of Mzuzu.
He said the two countries "are full of expectation that an amicable solution can be found out of these discussions.”
His Tanzanian counterpart Bernard Membe didn’t attend the opening ceremony as he is expected to come for the final meeting of ministers on Saturday in the administrative capital Lilongwe.
The Tanzanian high commissioner to Malawi, Patrick Tseve, is the top official at the meeting, but he didn’t speak. Malawi is being represented by foreign affairs officials and top officials from police and military.
The dispute stems from colonial-era border lines around the lake, Africa's third largest.
At issue is a largely undeveloped swath of Lake Malawi, where Lilongwe has awarded a license to British firm Surestream to explore for oil in northeastern waters near Tanzania.
Tanzania wants a halt to the oil exploration in the 29,600-square-kilometre (11,430-square-mile) lake, to pave way for talks.
Surestream is currently carrying out an environmental assessment.
Tanzania claims the border runs along the middle of Lake Malawi, home to over 500 species of fish and a major tourist attraction for Malawi.
When African states became independent, they agreed to maintain their colonial borders. Tanzania was a German colony that Britain took over after World War I. Britain then placed all the lake's waters under Malawi's administration.
Both nations say they could turn to international arbitration to settle the dispute if their talks fail.
Membe said ahead of the talks that there wass no substitute for diplomacy, saying "there will be diplomacy, diplomacy and more diplomacy. No gun or bullet will be fired to resolve the issue."
Malawian President Joyce Banda has said her nation, "much as it is a well-known fact that the lake belongs to Malawi" will engage Tanzania to "resolve our differences diplomatically and amicably."
Banda and her Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete also addressed the issue during a regional summit last weekend in Mozambique.
©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.